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The Song Dynasty (960-1279) was a pivotal kingdom in Chinese history; innovations include the first use of paper money, gunpowder, and a properly oriented compass showing True North. During this time the Song Dynasty increased their military might with a Naval force, increased agricultural production, defeated the Fourth Great Khan of Mongolia, and even created a more equal cultural environment for women, who were considered lower-class than men.
Another important innovation was the Printing Press, which allowed widespread reading of previously inaccessible literature. One of the most widely read authors was Confucius, whose philosophies had fallen out of style in favor of Chinese Buddhism. New interpretations of Confucian literature -- called Neo-Confucianism -- allowed more equality for lower-class people, farmers, and women, and encouraged egalitarian processes in business rather than elite or military rule. This enabled social classes to seek better opportunities instead of being locked into a low-class lifestyle; many of the merchant families held high positions in society, even though their trade was formally recognized as lower-class. The focus on equalizing class and opportunity allowed notions of freedom and liberty to spread where they had previously been quashed by the elite and ruling classes.
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